Recession is a prime time to emphasize green's real value

While the basic environmentally friendly "save the planet" themes have lost some of their luster with consumers - and the media - as Earth Day approaches on April 22, brands can resuscitate their green messaging by tying it to themes of financial value.

While the basic environmentally friendly “save the planet” themes have lost some of their luster with consumers – and the media – as Earth Day approaches on April 22, brands can resuscitate their green messaging by tying it to themes of financial value.

This is particularly important given the ongoing recession. However, it also offers the opportunity to tear down previous assumptions that “green” options always have to cost more – something that might be out of reach and out of budget for the average consumer. Although companies have long touted the ROI of certain green initiatives, such as recycling and high-efficiency electronics, consumers, too, want to know how they can benefit from cost savings.

Those two topics – green messages and economic sustainability – are linked in many consumers' minds. Many hope that environmentalism can provide an avenue out of the recession. A striking result of a recent Hill & Knowlton study revealed that 54% of respondents say clean energy technologies are a top priority for economic recovery. Only 17% of respondents – 878 adult consumers, 214 senior business executives, and 50 financial analysts in total – disagreed.

A familiar example of refreshing green messaging with an economic angle is the We Campaign's “Repower America,” which is airing TV spots showing consumers the direct impact that the increased use of green technologies has on their wallets, as well as other important issues. The group's Web site also features profiles of US workers with green jobs as part of its initiative to have the US using 100% clean electricity in 10 years. In today's poor economic climate, consumers still care about saving the world, but care more about putting food on the table and other primary responsibilities. Green messaging needn't be supplanted by economic themes, but to be effective, it must reflect this change in values.

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